All the Buildings

I love those moments when you’re walking in your neighborhood and suddenly nothing is familiar. In a good way.

Sean Cole began seeing his neighborhood, actually the whole city of New York, with new eyes because of one artist who is trying to do nothing less than draw all the buildings in New York.

James Gulliver Hancock’s drawings are intricate, but still a little cartoony. Little squiggles and dots hover above the roofs, as though they’re saying “Look Out!” or maybe “ta-da!”

Cole became infected with Hancock’s worldview and began to appreciate all the tiny details the artist would highlight.

144 franklin
144 Franklin, by James Gulliver Hancock

This building in Greenpoint, 144 Franklin, is one that Sean has seen often in Greenpoint. When he sees it, it looks like this:

Credit: Sean Cole

Up the street at 97 Franklin, James turned this bodega…

Credit: Sean Cole


111 Franklin St., by James Gulliver Hancock

James recently published a book with the audacious title All The Buildings In New York (That I’ve Drawn So Far)Most of buildings are in the book are in Manhattan.


This episode was reported by public radio superstar Sean Cole — who, thanks to you, is joining the 99% Invisible team! Yay!

At the end of the episode I mention Mooninite and their label, Hel Audio, which is also the home of 99pi fav OK Ikumi. Since I have a 13 year old VW Golf with a tape deck, I LOVE the fact that they release their music on cassettes. Highly recommended.


  1. Nice spot by Mr. Cole! A great way to “see” a city.

    To add to the party google for drawings by Aurora Altisent of Barcelona.

  2. Listened to the podcast and decided to visit the website for the first time – great to see the drawings. I’m from Australia too, but grew up in England and love a tall building!

  3. I am an atheist.
    I mention this as background; so you understand when I say that listening to 99 percent invisible is a quasi-religious experience for me.
    You make me feel hopeful and happy and nostalgic, sometimes all at once. You have my full support on the kick starter.
    My only request is that you keep making these amazing, inspiring radio programs.

    A young engineer.

  4. Fun way to show the city. I’d love to see his drawing of Alwyn Court on 58th and 7th. He’d be there for two months drawing that one!

    When I lived in NYC, I covered the city to photograph the various gargoyles and ornamentation on the buildings. It teaches you so much about the history and craftsmanship of those old great buildings.

    Great episode!

  5. Jeff Williams

    After seeing the drawings I am struck by how much they look like they belong in the New Yorker. Lovely feelings of warmth and comfort result.

  6. interesting episode, but this time thanks most of all for the music tip: loving both OK Ikumi and Mooninite. Great finds, both of which I purchased on bandcamp. the big wheel keeps on turning… Stephan Mathieu does some beautiful pure ambience stuff that could sound great on the show. I wrote much of my phd diss listening to him. try hidden name, perhaps, for starters…

  7. This is my fav 99% invisible episode .. Love the content, the narration and the sound ! Waiting for more like these . So lively and interactive, even though it’s just radio !

  8. Catherine Chicoine

    Very sad I’m discovering this podcast so late, but so happy I have a gazillion episodes ahead of me! I think you should take a look at Raymond Biesinger’s Canadian Cities maps or The Lost Building of Canada’s series… design, architecture, history… (and he’s even a musician if you need a soundtrack!)
    Keep up the good work!!

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